The other week I was listening to The Enormocast. I’m a little behind so I was listening to the episode where Chris interviewed four climbers at the Red Rock Renedezvous. I loved this little schtick he did called ‘The Hanging Belay’ where he asked 5 or 6 questions in rapid succession. One of the questions was, ‘when was the last time you cried on a climb?’
For me, that answer would be “two weeks ago.”
Now, personally, I think 5.9 slab is enough to make anyone cry. In fact, in my house, we have joke: “What’s the pro for 5.10 slab? Zanax.” I’m not really good at slab. I’m a Gunks climber, so I do the same move over and over again- reach up, grab the big jug, high-step, repeat until the belay/top-out. I’ve got that move down. I’m comfortable with it. I’m pretty sure slab is the exact opposite of Gunks climbing. So part of my problem was I just wasn’t any good at this particular 5.9 slab- delicate moves, few handholds, lots of trusting one’s feet/sticky rubber. No room for thuggy moves or my beloved high steps.
And this route had a traverse at the beginning. I hate traverses. So I was gripped. I was petrified to fall, so I reacted. I started to get mad at my partner for dragging me on that climb. Didn’t he know I suck at slab? I know he knows I hate traverses and yet, he dragged me up this climb anyway. In his defense, he had never been on this particular climb before, so he didn’t really know what he was in for either.
Conflated with fear, I wasn’t thinking or acting rationally. I had to give my fear an outlet. I started to curse like a sailor as I simply willed my feet to stick to the rock as I moved off of the first bolt. By the time I reached the next stance, my feet and calves were cramping and simply cursing was not enough. I looked up at my partner at the belay and flipped him the bird. I used both hands because, hey- it was slab- my hands were damn near useless anyway. As I continued, I started to curse him. He blew it off at first, but he could only handle so much abuse at my hands and tried to calm me down. As I became aware of my bad behavior and how it must appear to the party below, I became really self-conscious and ashamed. And that’s when I started to cry. Once the first tear fell, the floodgates opened and I cried my way through the top half of the climb.
I should note that my partner that day was my husband. I can remember three and only 3, distinct incidents where I have cried while climbing. All with him. I just never let myself get that emotionally vulnerable with another partner. Not while climbing at least. I may whine, I may whimper, I may curse like a sailor, I may nearly pee my pants (expensive Gore-Tex pants I might add), but I never cry. Just with him.
As embarrassing as it is when I have these breakdowns, which isn’t often, I’m really glad that I have a partner like him that I can be that vulnerable with. I can be that vulnerable with him because I trust him completely. Not only do I trust him to handle my emotional reactions, but I trust him to be a completely competent climber and I trust him to push me- just a little. Most days, that’s a really great thing because I grow and learn from the experience and it makes me a better climber. Every once in awhile, that push is a tad too much- or more, realistically- the push is just enough, I’m just not in the right frame of mind to accept and meet the challenge. But that intrinsic push and pull, even when it might end in some tears, in one of the things I love and value most about having a life partner who is as passionate about climbing and this lifestyle as I am.
Have you ever cried on a climb??? Tell me about it in the comments below…